Updates on the Liberian Telecom Scene

Just wanted to update a few things and make some corrections.

I’ve discovered that Libercell has towers in Grand Kru county, and Libercell offers GPRS data service. Not sure if this means that Libercell offers GPRS in Grand Kru, but it would seem so. This would mean that you potentially have a choice between Cellcom and Libercell for GPRS/EDGE in Grand Kru county.

More and more I’ve noticed that my cell phone tells me that EDGE data service is available when I have my Lonestar SIM card in my phone. So I think it’s safe to say they have EDGE now. Scratch that.

I’ve started using a Lonestar SIM card in my laptop for email checking and stuff, and my laptop reports that I’m only getting GPRS out of Lonestar. Cellcom was working great, but at $60 a month it was more than I needed. I just use it to check and send email when in the field, so Lonestar’s $1 an hour rate is more inline with my usage. It seems to be more unreliable than Cellcom, but if I leave it on for 20 minutes i’ll be able to download a few emails and send a couple. That’s all I need so I’m happy. At least till someone thinks a 3MB attachment is a good idea.

Finally, I wanted to talk about Libtelco (AKA: Liberian Telecom Company, AKA LTC). Back in the day LTC ran the few land lines that Liberia had. Then the war came, the phone lines were looted, and LTC fell into disrepair. Now, it’s been brought back and renamed Libtelco. They’ve build up a modern CDMA network across Monrovia. Why you’d use CDMA in a part of the world that is exclusively GSM is beyond me, but that’s what they did. I think part of it may be that they’re targeting businesses who want PBX, fax, and ISP services, and not individuals who want to talk. They have a list of their services here, and a list of prices here.

Libtelco is also government owned, just like it was back in the day. The latest copy of the Liberian ICT policy has Libtelco playing a major role in the country’s ICT development. They’ll get to do things like be an international peering point, build out networks for universal sevice, and hopefully a local peering point so that the other major ISPs can send data around Monrovia directly, rather than up through a VSAT, over to europe, then back up a VSAT, and back to Monrovia. Recently a feasiblity study was conducted to see if Libtelco installing a fiber optic ring around Monrovia would make sense. The study concluded that it would make sense. If it’s done right, and they get buy in from the other major ISPs, businesses, and the government plays along, such a network could be really cool.

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